A World in Which the English Major Finally Understands Quantum Mechanics

Bethany F. Brengan

A World in Which the English Major Finally Understands Quantum Mechanics

    The Universe is made of stories, not of atoms.
    — Muriel Rukeyser

The pink nylon jellyfish
bobbing through the rain
seems to shield a single life.
But then the dog separates—
brown-black dot—running ahead.

The bouncing photon—
particle but wave; here while
there—seems too small
a strangeness to build

a shadow universe
shrouded by seemingly empty
spaces within our molecules,
oscuro to our chiaro.

But if stories are built on choices
then every choice is charged
with a new world: present participles
on past particles, rising action
out of collapsing wave functions.

A world in which the dog
wraps his leash around the legs
of a beautiful man. A world
in which a car slides too fast
around the bend. A world where
the voice of her mother
doesn’t beat down
relentlessly from the sky.

Sometimes, only the wall
between realms
is as thin
as your raingear.

The mind of God jostles:
a county-fair jar of jellybeans
(every time you guess the universes,
the number changes); flavors
in which each one
of us is saved
and each one, lost—and a wide bow
of umbrellas in shades
the devil never dreamed.


Bethany F. Brengan is a freelance writer and editor who lives in the soggy Northwest. Her work has appeared in New Myths, Ninth Letter, Seaside Gothic, and Dick Grayson, Boy Wonder: Scholars and Creators on 75 Years of Robin, Nightwing, and Batman. She can be found at https://medium.com/@bethanybrengan.

Backstory: I have been revising (and revising and revising) this poem off and on for years now, but the initial spark came from watching NOVA’s broadcast of Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives about the theories of Hugh Everrett. That was the first time I understood the many-worlds theory as science instead of just a fanciful plot device. Story and physics synced up, and I felt chills. I studied English in college, and my awe of science far outpaces my understanding of it. But I am comforted by the possibility of a world where I, too, finally begin to grasp quantum mechanics.

Editor’s Notes: See Quantum Mechanics for Everyone, a free course by Edx, https://www.edx.org/learn/quantum-physics-mechanics/georgetown-university-quantum-mechanics-for-everyone and the Many Worlds PBS transcript, https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/manyworlds/byrne.html

Image Credit: Abstract quantum physics wallpaper [wallpapercave]

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One Response to A World in Which the English Major Finally Understands Quantum Mechanics

  1. CC says:

    Yes, it’s all hypotheticals of tiered minds. As we wonder through dreams and moral considerations via hypotheticals/stories, we pass from the base instinct to a divinely constructed prayer to the Other mind.
    The non-set aspects of the quantum are simply dimensions of equivalence—a range from which we choose and co-choose a story of evaluation.

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